Florida’s beaches and blue-green waters are a major draw year-round. Labor Day, though, sees the beaches and waterways especially packed. This year, gas prices are down and the recession has eased, so even more are expected to flock. AAA estimates some 35 million people are traveling more than 50 miles for the holiday, and South Florida is a prime destination.
But more boating traffic means a greater likelihood of serious crashes, particularly when alcohol is thrown into the mix. No one ones this better than the South Florida first responders called to the scene of a deadly Fourth of July boating accident in the Biscayne Bay earlier this summer. Four people died and a dozen more were injured, some critically. It was one of Florida’s worst-ever crashes, and officials this Labor Day are doing everything they can to avoid a repeat.
Our West Palm Beach boating accident attorneys understand officials at the federal, state, county and municipal level are all teaming up to patrol the waters this weekend, with a keen eye out for drunken skippers. When asked by reporters how many units there would be, the Key Biscayne police chief answered, “A lot.”
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reports the state logged 736 boating accidents, resulting in 420 injuries and 62 deaths. That’s more than anywhere else in the country, which makes sense as we have the most registered boaters in the U.S. California, which has double the population but slightly fewer registered boaters logged half has many accidents last year as Florida.
While safety advocates press for stronger action, it’s a tough balancing act, given that Florida’s boating industry is a tourism machine, generating some $9 billion annually and keeping some 108,000 people employed. This is a lot of muscle when it comes to pressing the legislature for an anti-regulatory stance toward the marine industry as a whole. However, crashes like the one that happened in Key Biscayne on July 4 highlight the need for some intervention.
Some activists are calling for mandated boater safety education courses, licensing requirements and a crackdown of boating and driving. Authorities say this holiday, they will be focusing a great deal on drinking activities on the sandbars. There has been some calls to shut down the “floating bars” that cater to these locations, but those calls have yet to be heeded. Marine patrols often have difficulty penetrating the mass of tethered boats, and are forced to remain at the edge, making it tougher to assess potential danger or take control of situations that may be hazardous.
It was at just such an occasion in May that prominent local DJ at a vodka-sponsored party accidentally killed a guest with the boat propeller as the guest attempted to help free the boat from the sand. The engine was turned on.
Making matters especially concerning this holiday are that Hurricane Cristobal is making its way across the open Atlantic Ocean. While it isn’t expected to make landfall in the U.S., it’s going to bring strong and frequent rip currents – something of which boaters and swimmers need to be especially wary.
Meanwhile on the roadways, the National Safety Council estimates some 400 people will perish this weekend in car accidents. Officials urge drivers to be sober, attentive and well-rested. Those who do party too hardy have the option of contacting AAA’s free and confidential Tow to Go program. Tows and free rides home are offered, regardless of membership, within a 10-mile radius. The number to call is 855-286-9246.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Safety Advocates Call for Florida to Curb Floating Water Holes, Aug. 26, 2014, By Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times
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